The ceremony was
in the 'cinema' of Buckingham Palace, which doesn't look like a cinema at
all. Baroness Brigstock opened the ceremony and introduced the Duke of
Edinburgh. Then Valerie Mitchell, Director of the English-Speaking Union,
spoke about the Award and relayed some of the very kind words that the
assessors had said about How English Works. Then, the big moment, I went
up with Stewart Melluish, our editor, and Richard Morris, the designer, to
receive the certificates and the Award itself, a beautiful Edinburgh
crystal bowl etched with thistles. The Duke shook my hand. I remembered my
do you like best about being an ELT author?
I suppose it's knowing that you're doing some good. It's a lonely job
compared to teaching and that's one of the reasons that I prefer teaching.
I suppose the most rewarding thing is to hear from the people who tell us
that we helped them become better teachers... that by using our books and
by thinking about how we deal with pedagogy in our books, they've been
able to stand on our shoulders and become better teachers themselves. I
think that's the most rewarding thing.
it comes to the writing process, how disciplined are you?
With deadlines, you usually don't have any choice about that! We sit down;
we map out the book; we divide it into bits; then Michael goes off to his
study and he does a bit, and I go off to my study and I do a bit. Then we
exchange our bits and criticize. Sometimes it's completely back to the
drawing board, but more often it's an adjustment here and there.
must be very good at receiving criticism.
Well I guess we are! We agree on the basics... and we respect each other.
So if I tell him that something is wrong with one of his lessons, or he
tells me that there's something that doesn't work in one of mine, I don't
take it as impugning my basic ability to write that lesson. We take it for
what it is. No, we work very constructively.
do you feel when you have finished a book?
It's always a sense of relief and accomplishment. We're lucky because we
work in tandem so we know we're fairly confident once we hand in a
manuscript that it's already been through our fairly tough,
were delighted with How English Works. We felt it had the right shape and
the right length. We had had excellent editorial input from Stewart
Melluish at OUP. We were pleased with the way things came out. But we were
even more pleased when we saw the actual design of the book, because we
really felt that Richard Morris had produced a design that was at least as
good as the content. A good design has to be clear, accessible, and
attractive and I think that Richard's done a grand job on How English
makes a good ELT teacher?
good ELT teacher has to be good with and sensitive to language, and good
with and sensitive to people.
you've got a teacher who's very good at language and insensitive to people,
then the learning process doesn't happen as it should. If you've got a
teacher who's very good with people but who's not good at the language,
accurate and well-staged information about the language will be missing.
Obviously when you start teaching, you can't know everything about a
language but you've got to have a basic knowledge of a language and some
kind of sensitivity to how a language works, and some knowledge of how
you see any big changesahead for ELT?
It's very hard to know. Some people think the information technology
revolution is going to make an enormous difference. I'm a bit sceptical
though. I worked as an RSA assessor for a long time and from my experience,
a good language teacher is sensitive to what's going on in the classroom
on a microsecond by microsecond basis, and makes adjustments. It's almost
a skill that's not conscious. You can'tget this out of a computer, no
matter how sophisticated it is; no matterwhat the programme is. You're not
going to get this.
think that new technology can help. I think it's wonderful and exciting,
and there are all sorts of exciting ways that teachers canuse new
technology in the classroom. But you can't replace a teacher.
you see students benefiting from the Internet?
If we're talking about students in the developed world, in countries where
a lot of people have access to computers, then yes. Now what percentage
that is of language learners throughout the world is a big question mark.
Certainly the Internet can give students access to a wide variety of
things. It could be seen as something to take a load off some of the
teacher. But I don't think it will ever replace a teacher.
do you see authors benefiting from the Internet?
Well, I think that anybody who does any kind of research inevitably
benefits from the Internet. You've seen from How English Works that we
take material from all kinds of places and we're just as likely to talk
about a national park in America, or how some kind of machine works, or
what the process of making paper is, or any number of things. And
obviously, it's wonderful to key a few words into a search engine and find
out what's there.
would you sum up your philosophy as an ELT author?
Mike and I like to say that it's a question of respect. Respect for the
language - so that you're not pretending that the language is easier than
it is, or that it's only grammar, or only vocabulary, or only functions.
Or that just giving people a variety of tasks is automatically going to
produce the grammar that you need or the functions that you need.
Respecting the language as a complex entity.
respect for the learner. Realizing that our learners are not learning a
first language, so they come to this experience as whole people. With
lives, with humour, with experiences, with views, with opinions, with
feelings. In order to help them learn, you need to take account of those
things insofaras you can. Maybe some of them learn better visually, and
some of them learn better kinaesthetically, and some of them learn better
orally. Respect that your learners are whole people.
respect for teachers. In the classroom, the teacher is the most important
person: to give a focus to the class; to act as a repository of the
knowledge; to be a resource for the students; to guide the group;to be
sensitive to what's going on; and to help people. In our books, we try our
best to give as much support and respect to the teacher as possible, to
make his or her job as easy as possible.
you hadn't gone into ELT, what would you like to have done?
are your interests outside ELT?
I've always tried to keep fit and about 8 years ago I started training in
karate with my son. It's a style called Wado Ryu karate, based on evasion
and speed. It was developed by a man who was not very big so it's ideal
for someone like me - a woman who's quite slight.
a teacher, I've always been committed to continuing to learn because I
think you have to keep in your mind what it's like to be a learner. And
it's especially good as I have very little talent for karate so I have to
work very, very hard at it. It's good for me to see what it's like to
learn something when you're not gifted for it.
sports I enjoy are cross country skiing, mountain walking and glacier
also had a long term interest in prison reform and I have a connection
with Grendon Prison, a top security prison outside Aylesbury which is a
therapeutic community. It's a pioneering prison that started in the 1960s
and whose lessons are finally beginning to be taken on board by the prison
system. So I visit there regularly. What else? Well, I'm also a member of
Amnesty International. I regularly write Amnesty letters.
is your favourite piece of music?
Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, without a question. I could listen to it
everyday for the rest of my lifeand be perfectly happy. If I get run over
by a bus on the way out of here, please play me the final quintet from The
Marraige of Figaro in my hospital bed - I'll either wake up or die happy.
famous or historical character would you most like to meet?